Category Archives: Human trafficking

Spot the signs and change the story – Tyrone’s story

Only younger brothers will understand me. We’re following in the footsteps of older brothers. You are looking up to your brother. You want to do the same things. You want to do as good as he and do it even better…

But we have different characters, different way of thinking, even if we are similar. We are not cloned.” – Wladimir Klitschko

Wayne was 18 and the man of the house. His dad was long gone and he needed to provide for and protect his family. But it’s a bit difficult for him to do that now that he’s dead.

Wayne was a drug dealer. But he wasn’t just a dealer, he used drugs too. Which led to him overdosing in 2015, leaving behind his two younger brothers. But that’s not all he left behind. He also left a very large drugs debt to his bosses.

Wayne was a drugs runner for a London organised crime group who were running a county line into Cambridgeshire.

Daryl, Wayne’s younger brother, looked up to Wayne, he wanted to follow in his footsteps and be like him. Not even a year after Wayne’s death Daryl was doing just that when the police found him in a 45-year-old drug user’s house, supplying him with heroin.

Daryl frequently skipped school. He’d been found hanging around shops and streets many times but had never been found with drugs on him. He had started wearing jewellery and seemed to have access to more cash and clothes.

Unfortunately Daryl did not learn from this first experience with the police and was arrested again in similar circumstances in Suffolk and Lincolnshire.

There had been a lot of gang rivalry in Cambridge and Daryl had run over a rival dealer in in a gang feud to protect his drug business. This led to his arrest and his current residency in prison.

Tyrone, the youngest of the brothers, is now 12. He has lost both his brothers, one to an overdose and one to prison, all because of drugs. Tyrone frequently runs away from home and has been displaying the signs of county lines criminality.

But the story can and will be different for Tyrone. The signs have been spotted early and partner agencies, including a local children’s charity, are working with him to make his story end differently. To ensure he has a different way of thinking and that he is not a clone of either of his brothers.

Would you know how to spot the signs of drug dealing in your local community?

Would you know that someone was vulnerable to exploitation by drug dealers?

Here are some questions to consider:

 

  • Have you seen something you think could be drug related but are not sure?
  • Do you know someone who is being forced or asked to deal drugs?
  • Do you know someone who is saying they have a drugs debt?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes you should call police on 101 or report it online at www.contactcambspolice.uk/Report/.You don’t need to give us your name. Just tell us what you know – even the smallest amount of information could be the piece of the puzzle we need. Calls can be dealt with anonymously. Or you can contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111 or via www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

If somebody is in immediate danger or a crime is taking place you should always call 999.

You can find out more about county lines on our county lines web pages.

While this article is based on real life examples all characters and events in this story are fictional and have been created to deliver information about county lines criminality.

Modern slavery: a victim’s experience

I’d been through a tough time in Latvia and was looking for a fresh start. I’d heard how people had moved to the UK and found work with good wages. It felt like the right thing to do to get out of my situation.

I saw an advert online saying that there was plenty of work in Cambridgeshire. I called the number and spoke to a man who said that he could guarantee work and that accommodation would also be included as part of the job.

I didn’t have the money to pay for the travel, but he said I could pay him back when I got my wages. It sounded perfect and I agreed to go.

When I arrived in the UK I was taken to my accommodation. It wasn’t what I expected, but I didn’t want to complain. I thought I could find something else after a few months of working. There were twelve of us living in a two bedroom house, sleeping on mattresses on the floor.

The man who brought me to the UK said he needed my passport to complete some paperwork before I could start work, so I gave it to him.

It took about a week before I started work, initially in the fields and then later in a factory. The hours were long and my wages were paid to the man who organised everything. He only gave me about £15 a week after he had taken off money for rent, my debt for travel to the UK and transport to work.

Sometimes there wasn’t any work for a while, but I still had to pay rent. I couldn’t afford to and so it was added to my debt.

I confronted him about returning my passport and the low wages, but he assaulted me and said I was ungrateful. I felt trapped and just had to take it. I had to spend all the money I got on food just to survive. Even if I did somehow manage to save enough money to go home, I didn’t have my passport to make the journey.

I was becoming increasingly desperate and didn’t know where to turn.

Then one day police officers came to the house and said that they were investigating the man who had brought me to the UK. I told them what had happened to me and they arranged for me to go to a place of safety.

I thought my situation in Latvia was bad, but this had been much worse. I wish I’d never taken the job, but finally I had managed to escape.

If you’re concerned for someone’s welfare please call police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. Alternatively you can call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

For more information on the signs to look out for visit http://bit.ly/2qb3RAn.

*This blog has been based on common experiences of victims of modern slavery in Cambridgeshire. It is not the specific account of one individual.

Human trafficking week of action – visiting houses of multiple occupancy

PC Neil Patrick

I have been a police officer for more than seven years and currently work within the Risk Management Team (RMT), based at Huntingdon Police Station. The role includes protecting the community and safeguarding the most vulnerable victims of crime within, as well as providing reassurance, advice and support. The RMT also identifies houses of multiple occupancies (HMOs) where there is a potential risk of harm to those living within them. We ensure the occupants are safe and living free from threats of violence, as well as identifying and developing intelligence opportunities where the most vulnerable are at risk and progress through to search warrants where required.

We routinely engage with the most prolific offenders to deter and prevent re-offending. Daily tasks are assigned to the team which include locating and arresting suspects of crime and those who are wanted on warrant.

Human trafficking is a serious offence and involves arranging and facilitating the movement of a person, or multiple people, to different locations for the purpose of exploitation. This is commonly for labour or sexual exploitation.

Those who are trafficked from outside of the UK are often tricked into moving here after having been offered employment, housing and a better way of life. However, on arriving in the UK, many have their passports and money confiscated and are forced to reside in multiple occupancy homes. Their movements are then controlled and they are forced into the sex trade or manual labour, being paid little or no money in return.

HMOs are used to house multiple workers and their families and are often normal residential properties that can be shared by numerous people. Properties often breach health and safety regulations and are in poor repair. Within the houses are adults and children who often sleep in rooms with other families. People are charged an extortionate amount of rent for rooms, with those involved in the trafficking ring often taking money directly from their wages.

The practice of ‘hot-bedding’, involving shift workers sleeping in the same bed throughout a 24-hour period, is also common. Trafficking rings often house a member of their group, who are in control of the house. This is to keep an eye on the property and those residing within it, as well as to report back to those higher along the chain of command. The whole process demonstrates an instillation of fear and control over those living within the house.

Together with our partner agencies, including Huntingdon District Council and Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, we have recently completed a week of action in relation to human trafficking in the Huntingdonshire area, and visited a number of known HMOs.

The aims of the visits were to speak with the occupants, raise awareness of human trafficking and ensure that any welfare concerns were addressed. We wanted to ensure that people living at the addresses were doing so voluntarily and without the threat of violence. We also offered information to residents regarding employment and exploitation. Checks were completed by Huntingdonshire District Council and Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service to ensure the occupants were living in a safe and habitable environment.

In total, approximately 20 HMO addresses were visited throughout the Huntingdonshire district. These visits were received well by the occupants and further work will be completed, contacting landlords in relation to properties that have been identified as requiring essential repair. Overall, it was a successful week of raising awareness, providing advice and ensuring the properties they occupy meet the required health and safety standards. Landlords will be contacted where standards have not been met and told to rectify the issues identified.

Slave driver: Audrius Morkunas

A Lithuanian national, Audrius Morkunas, arrived in East Anglia in 2009 and used his dominating physical presence to act as an unlicensed gangmaster.

Morkunas built up an organised crime group and for the next three years he controlled a number of victims, including one example where he forced victims to work in a chicken processing factory and bullied the factory owner to employ them.

He demanded rent and charged each worker for transport he provided, as well as charging £400 for finding them ‘work’. The victims invariably built up a debt to Morkunas that he used to exploit and control them.

Morkunas displayed aggression and used violence to control many of the victims. He controlled the bank accounts that they opened as well as taking control of many of their identity documents, including passports and driving licences.

After being found to have produced and used a forged Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) licence, Morkunas was convicted in December 2013 and received a seven year sentence for acting as an unlicensed gangmaster, seven years for money laundering and 18 months for assault after he beat a worker with an iron bar.

Help us put an end to modern slavery by reporting via 101 today, or find more information here .

Trafficking victim: Shameem from Pakistan

 

Shameem was 10-years-old and deaf when she was trafficked to the UK. Ilyas and Tallat Ashar brought her from Pakistan and kept her at their home in Salford where she was forced to sleep in the cellar, despite their being spare bedrooms at the property.

Shameem was repeatedly raped by Ilyas Ashar, 84, and his wife, Tallat Ashar, 68, forced her to cook and clean at a number of properties they owned. Thousands of pounds in benefits were also claimed in Shameem’s name which she did not receive, and a number of bank accounts were set up using her details.

Shameem’s ordeal lasted nearly a decade. She was only found after Trading Standards officials visited the Ashar’s home to investigate allegations of money laundering.

When Shameem was discovered she was in a cot bed in the cellar of the house, a space described as cold and dark with a small amount of furniture. When officers tried to speak to her at the house they realised she was incapable of communication and moved her to a place of safety.

Details of Shameem’s ordeal only emerged after she was taught sign language. After just three months of teaching, Shameem’s skills had improved sufficiently for her to be interviewed by police. Officers spoke with her seven times, during carefully planned sessions involving a sign language interpreter.

After a trial in October 2013, Ilyas Ashar was found guilty of 13
counts of raping Shameem. He and Tallat Ashar were both
convicted of trafficking and benefit fraud. They were originally sentenced to 13 years and five years respectively, however, in
February 2014, the Court of Appeal extended their jail terms to 15 years and six years respectively after the sentences were described as ‘unduly lenient’.

The couples’ daughter, Faaiza Ashar, 47, was given a 12-month community order with 300 hours of unpaid work after she was also found guilty of benefit fraud.

In October 2014 Manchester Crown Court ruled that the Ashars must pay Shameem £100,000 in compensation. They must also repay £42,000 of benefits falsely claimed in her name and pay £321,000 towards the cost of their trials.

 

Trafficking victim: Brian from Kidderminster

Brian, a 30-year-old British man from Kidderminster, had been reported missing in 2000 having failed to return home from a seaside trip to Porthcawl in South Wales. He had been picked up on a dual carriageway and offered work at a horse farm in Newport.

The ‘work’ turned out to be forced labour and his accommodation was a rat-infested shed with no washing facilities. He was usually forced to work 14 hours each day, seven days a week and, during the 13 years he was forced to work at the farm, he received no pay.

His family eventually tracked him down with the help of Gwent Police and he was rescued in 2013. When he was found his family didn’t recognise him, as during the 13 years he had been held at the farm his health had deteriorated badly. He suffered a fractured hip falling from a horse, a chest infection, a hernia and calloused feet.

Gwent Police arrested a number of people following a complex and lengthy investigation. In October 2014, a 42-year-old man was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court to four-and-a-half years in prison for forced labour exploitation related offences.

This case drew on a multi-agency response led by Gwent Police and involved a number of other police forces from across the UK, the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC), local authorities, health services, the Red Cross and BAWSO, a Welsh Government accredited support provider.

As part of Gwent Police’s investigation, a number of other victims were identified and prosecutions have been brought against the accused.

Help us put an end to modern slavery by reporting via 101 today, or find more information here .

The story of a trafficking victim

More than 200 years ago the British House of Commons passed historic legislation to make the slave trade illegal, but sadly, the reality today is that slavery still exists in towns, cities and the countryside across the world, including here in the UK.

The scale of this hidden crime is significant – Home Office research estimates that in 2013 the number of potential victims in the UK was between 10,000 and 13,000. This number not only represents those trafficked into the UK from abroad, but adults and children from Britain too.

Case study: Sarita from Nigeria

Sarita grew up in Nigeria with her parents and siblings and her family scraped a living by selling bean cakes by the side of the road.

Over the course of five years, Sarita and her mother were befriended by a man who would regularly buy their goods. Trusting the man, the family agreed to Sarita travelling with him to Europe to find work as a waitress or a nanny.

She was presented with a passport and travel documents with a different date of birth. The man explained this was simply to overcome the fact she was too young to work abroad.

He reassured Sarita’s mother, who was anxious about paying back the money for her travel, that Sarita’s wages would soon cover this.

Before leaving Nigeria, Sarita was taken to a ritualistic ‘juju’ ceremony in Nigeria to make her afraid of disobeying the man.

Along with four other women, Sarita travelled with her trafficker to Germany, where they were taken to a large house. The trafficker became instantly aggressive and told the women that they would have to work as prostitutes to pay back their travel costs.

Sarita was devastated. She was threatened with violence and humiliation to her family should she ever try to escape, and she was assaulted if she did not willingly comply with the prostitution.

Brought to the UK, her exploitation continued. On one occasion she was tricked into taking a drugged drink and regained consciousness to find two men raping her.

One day, seeing an opportunity to escape, the women panicked and ran into the street and became separated. Frightened and vulnerable, Sarita was helped to a police station where staff and solicitors referred her to The Salvation Army.

At a safe-house she received much needed counselling and legal support to grant her refugee status. Staff helped her find somewhere to live and gave her opportunities for training.

By the time Sarita left the safe-house staff has witnessed a remarkable transformation in her manner and attitude to life. She is now living independently and is studying, and recently went on an apprenticeship scheme for a major UK supermarket group.

Help us put an end to modern slavery by reporting via 101 today, or find more information here .